Photo Confusion


MGF, Master Grumble Framer
Apr 28, 2002
Albuquerque, NM
I am soooo confused about photography! Papers... inks... emulsion...?? What is heat-tolerant and what is not? I feel safe dry mounting studio prints in my hot press, but everything else these days scares me. The new technologies are getting ahead of me. I usually throw the responsibility back on the customer, but frequently they don't know what they have. And I would like to appear at least *slightly* knowledgable about what I'm doing. Is there any reference source that might help educate me?

Susan, my background is in photography, but it was back in the olden times (think Matthew Brady) so I am frequently uncertain of exactly what I'm looking at in digital media.

I try very hard to avoid mounting any photo. When it's unavoidable, I might use a pressure sensitive cold mount board like Crescent Perfect Mount. Even that's not 100% safe. I mounted a print that could be a dye sublimation, could be thermal transfer or it could be some Klingon plot to undermine Earth by making the framers crazy.

Whatever it was, about 50% of the image transferred to the release paper.

My new rule is "no heat, no pressure, no kidding."

See if you can get hold of older issues of Picture Framing Magazine and check out the articles by Chris Paschke. She is the resident guru of mounting anything and I recall some articles on different photo papers. Sorry I can't be more specific.

"When in doubt, don't heat mount" is always a good mantra to have. Good luck!!
My new rule is "no heat, no pressure, no kidding."


Thanks Ron - Your rule keeps things simple. And after spending 8 days moving a frame shop, "simple" is what I'm all about these days.

Frame Lady, I just bought about five years of Picture Framing Magazine! I'll cruise through them. Thanks!

Keep in mind that anything you read that's six months old is probably obsolete.

Well, with respect to mounting digital media, anyway. Hammers haven't changed that much.
These days just looking at the paper doesn’t seem to help much.

But you can determine an ink jet print (even at 1,440 dpi) if you examine the surface with a magnifying glass – you’ll see teeny tiny dots – something you won’t see with a “real” photograph.

If you see the dots, it’s best to try a cold mount.
Bill, when I look a some lab photos, I see teeny tiny dots, too.

I think they call it "grain."

I went out a few years ago and bought a cheap, hand-held microscope from Radio Shack after a few Grumblers swore they could spot a color laser print (that otherwise looks just like an offset lithograph.) I can't tell anything looking through that microscope about the nature of a print.

The best way I've seen to identify the temp-sensitive ones is to put them in a heat press. If they melt, they're temperature sensitive.
some microscopes have a cap to protect the lense. Ya know, they probably taught you at that high priced cali-fornia photo school to use a lense cap for your camera lense. Same thing for the microscope. Take it off before looking through the instrument and you might see something. Sorry. getting into the 70s today so I need a brat & beer.
Thanks, Katman, but I can see through my microscope. I use it frequently to remove microscopic bits of glass or Nielsen metal shavings from my fingers.

But for identifying dot patterns on prints - they all look the same.

It IS handy for distinguishing a printed signature from a printed one.

P.S. For $5.95 at Radio Shack, you don't get a cap for your microscope. You get a little plastic bag.
The new photo finish machines are digital and print with dots on real photo paper. I believe it scans the negitive, runs the imaage through a program to improve it and print the image through a projection device digitally using fine dots.

If I am in error please correct me.

Framer is correct on the new photo machines. Fuji and Noritsu play with the terminology, but they are basically scanning negs or taking direct digital input. The software smooths (my translation) the grain in film, and a laser array exposes the photographic paper. Depending on the machine resolution ranges from about 320 to 400 dpi.

I usually use something like an 8x loupe to verify if a really well done print is actually an inkjet. Unless it is printed edge to edge, I find the edges to be the best place to look for the dot pattern. May be my imagination, but the pattern of silver crystals on film base does not seem to be as uniform, nor does size seem to be as consistent, as the pattern in a 720, 1440 or 288o inkjet print.

Framer has raised an interesting question regarding the dot pattern in a silver halide print from one of the new digital machines. I'll have to look at one to see how it compares to an inkjet or optically exposed print.

Sounds to me that keeping a radio shack microscope around to find slivers of glass in the fingers is more efficient and cost effective than having a girlfriend to perform that function. Probably wouldn't be able to teach it to sail, though.
I know the New Mexico State Fair requires amateur photgraphers to dry-mount their entries.

If you spray mount them well, they will pass.

Many "papers" these days are actually polyester. You could try laying the print on a piece of plexiglass to see if it sticks. If it does, you can do a static mount to get the print nice and flat, with no risk of damaging the photo.
So when the heck are the framing industry suppliers going to catch up with the real world and give us a suitable cold mount system, and I don't mean some release paper and a plastic burnisher, but a modern, automated, roller cold mount system that can mount perfectly a 40 inch wide print at about a foot every 10 seconds. And another 10 seconds per foot to laminate it. I've been asking for this for about 5 years and am tired of people giving me nothing but a dumb look when I ask! Yes, the photo industry and the graphics industry has machine that do this but none of them seem to quite hit the mark for an average frame shop. The photo lab I use has a nice 80 inch wide machine which does it all but it needs a room 12 x 20 feet and cost 120,000. I would be pleased to get rid of my vacuum press and might even let the trusty old hardbed press go.
Bill, when I look a some lab photos, I see teeny tiny dots, too.
I think they call it "grain."
Ron, I think what you're seeing is call "persistant visual image", a ghosting on your retina caused by staring at your monitor too long.

"Real" photographic grain should be distributed in the image much less uniformly than ink jet dots, and, if you look very closely with a 12x loupe, the "chunks" of grain are irregularly shaped.
It seems to be open season on Ron, though I have been nothing but kind and thoughtful to <strike> all</strike> most of you.

I think I'll change my screen name and go over to Framer's new "safe" forum.
I think at this time I can still visually tell if a print is real or computer. I have seen light jet prints, iris, and all the other ones out there and I feel like I can tell. But one can always be incorrect every now and again, so why not use mylar corners. Don't guess, just be as safe as possible.

That New Mexico state fair is not too bright. They should get with the times. Someone needs to point them to this site for a little education.